Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Response to Sheldon Richman's Egalitarianism

By  Nick Badalamenti

You have to wonder, when do we start ignoring them entirely?

Sheldon Richman isn't even rigorous in his thought processes, in his latest,TGIF: In Praise of “Thick” Libertarianism :

while one can imagine a racist society in which no force is used. But although a society of racist pacifists is not a logical impossibility, it strikes me as highly unlikely.

Really? Highly unlikely? I've lived in a lot of different places in the US. I've seen racism in every single one of them, I've been subject to it myself. Yet, 99% of the time, despite the continued existence of it, society statistically speaking doesn't see continual violence as a result (since slavery). Sure there are times at which this occurs, and the NAP continues to condemn that-but is racism causing the violence to a degree more so than other forms of violence occurring daily? Is it such a problem that the definition of what it is to be a libertarian should change?

LOL...that's such a laughable proposition, aside from it being logically unsound.

Also, I shouldn't have to point out to most of you Richman's use of the word "pacifist". This is being conflated with the non-aggression principle, which is substantially different. I don't know if he's doing it intentionally or by mistake, by either way libertarianism calls for NAP adherence, not 'pacifism'.

He goes on:
I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force.
Then perhaps Richman should develop an alternative philosophy and call it something other than 'libertarian" so as to not distort the basic principle, which is stated in the very definition of libertarianism next to his article on the FFF website:

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds that a person should be free to do whatever he wants in life, as long as his conduct is peaceful. Thus, as long a person doesn’t murder, rape, burglarize, defraud, trespass, steal, or inflict any other act of violence against another person’s life, liberty, or property, libertarians hold that the government should leave him alone. In fact, libertarians believe that a primary purpose of government is to prosecute and punish anti-social individuals who initiate force against others.

Setting aside for a moment the possibility of whether a government can exist without a NAP violation, I see some cognitive dissonance between Richman and his site's own definition.

that libertarian would naturally object to even nonviolent forms of subordination

It is here he misses the point. Object if you like! Big deal, just don't violate the NAP. Don't pretend that your objection might supersede the NAP and be called "libertarian". Lew Rockwell said it best in his article last week,What Libertarianism Is, and Isn't:

And if we think libertarian flirtation with egalitarianism is a good idea, we have already failed.
Yes, we do believe in unfashionable things like the abolition of antidiscrimination law. If we didn’t, we would not be libertarians. Bound up in the principle of freedom of association is every defining libertarian principle: self-ownership, the meaning of property titles, and nonaggression.
It’s easy to defend the rights of people who are popular and whose views are in fashion. It is much more difficult – thankless, even – to defend the rights of those whom society despises. Libertarians need not endorse or actually be such people – I know of no one proposing such a thing – but if we do not defend their rights we are frauds.

So if Richman isn't for the freedom of association, including the freedom to hate others(even if is is stupid to do so), discriminate, etc., where does he draw his line between personal freedom and not having freedom? He said the NAP isn't enough, so what does he propose to "do" about it other than complain and try to call his complaints 'libertarian" without violating the NAP?

Nothing, that's what. He's in a conundrum of his own making. He's free to paint himself into boxes as far as I'm concerned, as long as he isn't violating the NAP. In the mean time I might take some time here and there to convince people that painting themselves into boxes might be intellectually unpleasant and certainly not "freeing" like simply adhering to the NAP, while also informing them there's nothing libertarian about it.

It all reminds me of Jim Carey's interaction with the tow truck driver in "Liar! Liar!":


  1. Like i do Tucker, i still respect Sheldon Richman for his history and his many contributions to the very "simple" and "pure" libertarianism that both of these guys now have such a moral problem with.

    But i feel as though their minds are changing, that they are wrestling with issues that they have made important to the degree that simply libertarianism isn't going to cut it with them anymore. I suspect that with Richman this is more honest than with Tucker, since Richman has regarded himself as more of a "left" libertarian for some time (yet mostly wrote great "pure" libertarian articles).

    But i have to wonder at which point the problem they create for themselves with egalitarian issues, will start to rationalize and justify initiatory force. I feel the moment is drawing nearer, and at this rate i see both of them rejecting libertarianism altogether.

    Take Richman's admission for instance: "I continue to have trouble believing that the libertarian philosophy is concerned only with the proper and improper uses of force."
    So when he realizes that it is, what would his response be?
    It's perfectly okay to be both a libertarian AND a moralist. Just as long as the 'moralist' part isn't mistaken for the 'libertarian' part. But these "humanitarians" seem hell bent on merging the two.

    1. "But i have to wonder at which point the problem they create for themselves with egalitarian issues, will start to rationalize and justify initiatory force. "

      Exactly! Great comment.

      It would only be natural that if they are to be "concerned" as Richman put it by things outside the NAP, that they only way they could act on this concern within current libertarian thought is by claiming a violation of the NAP by something other than violence. I think they are actually trying to do this, which is a slippery slope and would make the NAP subjective. That would be a very bad.

    2. Tony sez: "But i have to wonder at which point the problem they create for themselves with egalitarian issues, will start to rationalize and justify initiatory force. "

      And until they do, I have no problem with them.

    3. The question of "initiatory" violence is not limited to egalitarian libertarians. Suppose I have no interest in egalitarianism, but:
      1) My neighbor has repeatedly voted money out of my pocket
      2) My neighbor has voted for a sovietized healthcare bureaucracy that is likely to shorten my life expectancy as the availability and quality of medical service drops.
      3) My neighbor has voted for candidates who unambiguously claim the right to murder me on a whim with no due process, no notice, and no explanation.

      If I shoot my neighbor, am *I* really the one violating the NAP? When is it legitimate to invoke the "self defense" rationale? Is voting through a "democratic" process a sufficient defense for my neighbor if the entire federal government is illegitimate and criminal per any sincere reading of the Constitution?

      Noting that the logical implication might then rationalize shooting roughly half the population, is this then a reductio ad absurdum that clearly demonstrates my neighbor is NOT violating the NAP? Even though the traditional case for traditional war allows that shooting large numbers of aggressors is legitimate self defense?

      Suppose my neighbor does not agree that the government he employs to take my money for his own benefit is illegitimate. Suppose he does not agree that the mere use of government power is violence. Does this in any way change the actual result (that my money is confiscated against my will and my lifespan is shortened by lack of freedom in medicine)? Is lack of critical thinking ability and ignorance of economics a defense?

      If intent is all that matters, then we have all greatly erred by opposing the fairy tale mentality of Democrats. If results matter, or if rule of law matters, then one who votes for destructive and unjust use of government power is morally and philosophically culpable, regardless of what he believes or knows or doesn't know.

      Where exactly is the line between self defense and the initiation of aggression?

    4. I should have clarified up front: I am not actually planning to shoot anyone. I am simply trying to illustrate some context for the real point of the post above: what's the boundary between self defense and aggression?

  2. I bet the bleeding hearts are all for voluntary subordination if it involves S&M - then it's empowerment and feminist.

    But being subordinate to your boss or to a priest or to a spouse - that's pure evil.

  3. Rothbard tackled the questions raised with a theory on reciprocity. Hence the shun and the boycott, while acts of violence, are responsive, as is organizing politically, which is usually an ugly thing, to ward off those powers who want to tolerate trespassing and forced integration. All this talk of racism neglects the man behind the curtain.

    Richman is running cover for the man behind the curtain.

    1. You make an interesting comment. I submitted a brief to RW a couple of months ago title "Shunning as a libertarian tool."

      I think there is a place for it, RW rightfully questioned if engagement might not be better-all of this was in the context of the NYT's/Walter Block thing at the time.

      I'm still of a mind that there might be a good time & place for such, but certainly things of that nature are always up for debate and strategy can be subjective.

  4. As Professor R. Long has pointed out it is legitimate to meet violent oppression with force, but non violent oppression can only legitimately be fought non-violently.

  5. @I actually think boycotts can be excessive.

    Libertarianism also presumes proportionality.
    If someone has views that they can defend rationally, why should they be penalized for them to the point of losing their job?

    I am all for the right to association, but if an internet e-mob destroys someone's reputation and career with words like "racist" and "bigot," that is not just one person exercising their right to not associate, that is a gang using the full force of the mob to eliminate speech altogether

    Nobody is targeting pro-homosexual speech. So why should pro-Christian speech be censored?
    I don't see how that is different in effect from censorship.

    Especially when we know the government outsources so many of its efforts, how do we know that kind of cyber-shaming/isolation is not some kind of government effort to censor political speech, hiding behind high-sounding words delivered through ostensibly private actors?

    I call BS on this.